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An essay comparing/contrasting Orthodox Theosis and Buddhist Enlightenment.


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#1 George A.

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 03:01 AM

Hey everyone,

I've been to the website a number of times before, being led here through Google searching questions that I had, and I've always found the discussions very helpful. I'm a philosophy major and I just completed a course in Buddhist philosophy today, actually. I wrestled with finding a topic for my final paper for a while. At first I wanted to compare Buddhism with Plato's forms. Then I thought of comparing Nagarjuna's philosophy with Pyrrhonism. A couple of days before it was due, it dawned on me to write on Theosis and Enlightenment. Part of the reason for this choice was a feeling that I had throughout the course (I try to study philosophies as outside of my biases as I can) that there was something deeply wrong with Buddhism, despite it being surprisingly consistent. I just didn't really know how to explain it, yet. I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go at first, but as I was researched theosis deeper (I only had a general idea of what it was and meant), it started to take shape on its own. I had no idea how pervasive and core the doctrine is to virtually every aspect of Orthodox doctrine, be it Soteriology, Christology, ecclesiology, hagiography or even ontology. Researching and writing this paper further ended up deepening my faith, and I'm always amazed when my faith hits a deeper level which I didn't know existed.

Anyway, after going through the "Compatibilism and Orthodoxy" thread and seeing the comparisons to Buddhism, I thought of sharing my essay with you all here. I wasn't sure where to put this thread, so if it's in the wrong area, please move it to the appropriate one. I figured this was best place since the essay is centrally focused on the doctrine of theosis and the thread which convinced me to share it was also in this forum.

The essay itself is about 8 pages long. It's bound to have some editing errors, as I didn't really edit it. In fact, I saw one on the front page immediately after I printed it to hand in (and I didn't correct it in the pdf). However, if you feel as though I've made a doctrinal error anywhere in the paper, please share it with me so that I can try to correct my error in my own thought. I'm not much of a theologian, and after seeing how central this doctrine is, it's definitely one that I want to get right.

Here's a link to the essay: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B49xm576PHMlZmFhOGVhMGQtMmZkZC00MzIxLWJiMjUtOTJiY2JjYTkzYzMy&hl=en&authkey=CKjnpZwI

Thanks and let me know what you guys think.

In Christ,
George

#2 Theophrastus

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 01:57 AM

Hey everyone,

I've been to the website a number of times before, being led here through Google searching questions that I had, and I've always found the discussions very helpful. I'm a philosophy major and I just completed a course in Buddhist philosophy today....

In Christ,
George


"Moreover, a distinction is made between the essence of
God and His nature, to show how theosis does not lead to the creation of a new entity nor to merging
with God’s being. It is only His nature which we are capable of unifying with.
" (2)

I think the term is "energies", not "nature": theosis is becoming one with the Energies of God, not his Essence.


"One key difference, though, is that the entire impetus for a Buddhist to want to achieve enlightenment seems to be rest entirely on a desire to escape suffering. Orthodoxy, however, is not motivated by a desire to end suffering. In fact, suffering is embraced and its cessation in heaven is just a consequence of unifying one’s nature with God’s—our deification through unification with His nature is the motivation, not the cessation suffering, which might be a byproduct of deification."

I think you're comparing apples to oranges, or half an apple to a whole apple. You mention that the Orthodox wants two things, to get away from something and to gain something: (1) to relinquish suffering; and (2) to unify with God's Energies. But for the Buddhist, you only talk about what the Buddhist wants to relinquish (that is, suffering), and you don't talk about what the Buddhist wants to realize or make real.

#3 Owen Jones

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 02:06 PM

I'm not sure that Buddhists know what is really real.

#4 David Puline

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:16 AM

Hello...Kevin Allen on his live online broadcast on AFR has this broadcast that was on couple of weeks ago.

http://ancientfaith....ew_age_movement

The main speaker was a seeker and found truth in Orthodoxy.

Blessings,
david

#5 Rick H.

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 01:58 PM

I'm not sure why this link was posted here--there are other threads for which this podcast would be very appropriate though.

I listened to the entire 70 minutes and this Ancient Faith Radio segment isn't about Buddhism, it is about the 'New Age Movement' with much conversation about various practices and out of body experiences such as traveling to spirit realms and talking to spirit guides.

There is a short mention of a tantric connection to Buddhism at the very end of the podcast. And, more towards the beginning the author (Veronica Hughes) shares that she has known some acupuncture students, who because of their studies in acupuncture became Buddhists. But, the author also shared that she has for many years gone to an acupuncturist, and she presently goes to an accupuncturist for treatment of a physical condition.

It was interesting to me, in this podcast, when a caller who asked about practices "that we are not used to," practices that may be considered esoteric by some . . . and from both Kevin Allen and the author is was stated that:

-- As long as Hatha Yoga is used as just exercise and stretching, it's okay.

-- As long as you go to a Yoga center/studio that does not use mantras that's okay. Turn from classes that use mantras.

-- Qigong is fine as long as you stay in your body and do not adapt the philosophy that goes along with it.

-- As a rule if your alternative medicine or alternative practice is simply 'therapuetic' that is okay, but when your practice includes a 'philosophically based therapuetic' (especially out of body practices) then that is something to avoid.

#6 Antonios

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 02:52 PM

In other words, it is okay to juggle knives, as long as you don't get cut.

If people choose to juggle knives because it makes them feel better, then that is their choice. We shouldn't however forget that it carries risks nor forget that the risks will be greater for some.

#7 Rick H.

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:04 PM

In other words, it is okay to juggle knives, as long as you don't get cut.



Actually, if one *listens* to the podcast one will see that Kevin and Veronica make the opposite point consistently through the interview, offering many warnings along the way.

At the very end of the podcast advice is given about how to relate to people about some of these so-called esoteric practices. This advice talks about what works and what doesn't work . . . it talks about how to speak in love and find a common ground vs how to just turn folks off, it would probably be very helpful for some here.

#8 Antonios

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:25 PM

Actually, if one *listens* to the podcast one will see that Kevin and Veronica make the opposite point consistently through the interview, offering many warnings along the way.


That is good to hear. I am glad you agree with them that there should be warnings. In fact, in that case, we all agree!

At the very end of the podcast advice is given about how to relate to people about some of these so-called esoteric practices. This advice talks about what works and what doesn't work . . . it talks about how to speak in love and find a common ground vs how to just turn folks off, it would probably be very helpful for some here.


So, what did they say will work in relating with people who persist to promote things which requires many warnings in the wrong forum?

#9 Rick H.

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:37 PM

So, what did they say will work in relating with people who persist to promote things in the wrong forum which requires many warnings



Was that a Freudian slip of some sort when you wrote about people in the 'wrong forum'? :)


That was not the question that was being addressed.

Kevin Allen said:

How do we talk to New Ager's about our Orthodox Spirituality in a way that doesn't just shut them down?



And, Veronica Hughes talked about the need to find a common ground much like when the Christian Missionaries came and found common grounds between Native American Religions and Eastern Orthodoxy. Veronica uses the expression 'common ground' repeatedly and also the expression 'heart of the matter' in terms of avoiding philosophical debates which are "no good" as she says and only serve to alienate others.

At about the midway point of the interview Veronica spoke about having problems with her "reactions" to "fundamentalism" viz. fundamentalist Christianity. She said this was a real stumbling block for her in her conversion to Orthodoxy. So maybe this plays a part in her answering of the question above. But, even in her answer we see that a degree of 'knowledge of such practices', as well as a desire to 'engage' which is motivated by 'love' are the prerequisites for talking to New Ager's without alienating them and driving them away . . . and these are three things that are in pretty short supply in the fundamentalism that she speaks of above, maybe there was some divine intervention there? :)

#10 Antonios

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:54 PM

Was that a Freudian slip of some sort when you wrote about people in the 'wrong forum'? :)


I don't believe so. I don't think it was a slip.

Kevin Allen said:




How do we talk to New Ager's about our Orthodox Spirituality in a way that doesn't just shut them down?


This is a good question and I like Veronica's answer you provided.

Still, my question remains unanswered by you and Veronica: when those New Ager's or others who practice potentially dangerous rituals/exercises continue to promote them in the wrong forum which can lead others more at risk astray, what is the correct way to relate with them? Do we continue to lovingly search for common ground when this has been exhausted or do we admonish and correct them for the sake of those they are bringing down? Or do we simply shake the dust off our feet as a witness against them as the Lord instructed the Seventy?

#11 Rick H.

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 04:11 PM

I think we have strayed too far off topic here in this thread . . . and they are not talking about Orthodox Internet Forums or Orthodox Podcasts, they are talking about New Ager's and Orthdoxy.

Although, I think the point that is being missed is that a degree of knowledge is needed about some of the things of which Veronica speaks in order to work from "a common ground" initially in order to get to "the heart of the matter", as she says. Otherwise there will be no connection, only alienation.

In other words, and to really get to 'where the rubber meets the road,' if someone is ignorant of the things spoken of by the host, Kevin Allen, and his guest, Veronica Hughes, in this Ancient Faith podcast, then that person is not qualified to participate in such a conversation.

To be blunt, the answer to your question, Antonios, is:

He is an obstacle to both the conversation with and conversion of such a one as they are speaking about (the New Ager) and he should remain silent and leave the process to those who are knowledgeable about such things as well as Eastern Orthodoxy.

If this doesn't answer your question definitively you might want to start a new thread because we are moving too far away from the comparison and contrast of the OP.

#12 David Puline

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 06:24 PM

Hello...this came to me couple of hours ago:

http://www.johnsanid...-religions.html

Blessings.
david

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 06:35 PM

I came across this from the web site of an Orthodox parish in England:

 

Can one be Orthodox and Buddhist at the same time? This question might, I think, interest people interested in what we call Eastern religions, as many Buddhists (this will also apply to Hinduism) would hold that Buddhist practices and Christianity are perfectly compatible.

Orthodoxy and Buddhism are two radically different belief systems. Christianity has at its heart a belief in a personal God, involved in creation, loving His creation, and it is a belief in a creation that will, although it is fallen, be restored to communion with God. Buddhism, on the other hand, as far as I can see, as I am not at all an expert on Buddhism, as the ultimate goal of its belief system an entering into a state of nothingness, Nirvana.

I suppose the question is then how does one interpret Nirvana and also the degree of exclusivity that one is looking at. Orthodoxy is by nature exclusive, Orthodox Christianity makes exclusive claims to its position, it doesn’t regard all faith systems as equal, doesn’t say that it’s just as valid to be a Christian as it is to be a Jew, a Muslim, or, for that matter, a Buddhist etc.


Having said which, an Orthodox can see, learn from and admire many different things both in individual Buddhist personalities and Buddhist Scriptures, and it is clear that there are points of contact all the way along. Sometimes one is looking at the same sort of ideas expressed in different language and this is not a problem. What is more a problem is that sometimes the language looks very similar and the ideas expressed are actually radically different. So one needs to be very careful.

In all cases, I think it is very important that Orthodox Christians, and Christians in general for that matter, learn more and know more of other world faiths, because it’s not possible to argue one’s position in relation to another world faith from a position of ignorance; one needs to learn, to understand, and to relate to the other and to see that what does lie at the heart of both Christianity. Buddhism and other world faiths is what seems to me to be the intrinsic human quality of a longing for God, a longing for the divine, longing for the other, and that our physical nature is simply not all that is there. Now, the approach to what lies elsewhere is quite different at times, but this is something that we can start from.

 

Please note the parts I have underlined and put in bold. I find this disturbing, written as it is by an Orthodox priest. To suggest that Orthodox Christians can learn from Buddhist Scriptures seems dangerous and ought not to have been suggested by an Orthodox priest, especially given what Elder Sophrony says in the link provided in post #12. Any thoughts?



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:59 PM

Apart from the question I posed, does anyone agree that 'it is very important' that we learn about other faiths (see last paragraph of the piece quoted)? I do not think it is at all necessary.



#15 Phoebe K.

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 11:55 AM

I studied world religions before I became Orthodox as part of my undergraduate degree.  I see it as an area which needs a lot of descression as it is a delicate area, in countries such as the uk where there is a lot of religious diversity it is important we understand the basics of the belies of those we live with so that following the example of St Paul in sharing the Good News in the way they can hear it.

 

For most people the basics included in the secondary school cariculam would be enough to navigate life without coursing offence to other people and to be able to respond if they ask questions provided we know the Catichisam well.  There some however called to be apoligests for the faith who with the blessing of their spiritual father can study other religions for the perpous of explaining clearly the true faith into that world view, these people are few and far between though, mostly such things are best done by those who have come to orthodoxy from other religions.

 

Learning to live the Gospel is the most important thing, that dose not mean however we should isolate them from the reality of the world around us or withdraw them from RS lessons at school but rather make shore that they understand the orthodox point of view and that we should respect other people have a different understandings even if we disagree with them.



#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 05:40 PM

I share Phoebe's well-said caution about delving into religions, and for most of us there is no need. Also, is this not a one-way traffic? Do followers of religions such as Islam and Hinduism learn about the Orthodox Christian faith? I doubt it.

 

I have mentioned to one or two people the point I raised in post #13 about what the author of the piece wrote and they were aghast.






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